How is Tetany Caused?


Tetany is a condition characterized by involuntary muscle contractions, spasms, and twitching due to low levels of calcium in the blood. The primary cause of tetany is a disturbance in the balance of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus in the body. Here are some common causes of tetany:

  • Hypocalcemia (Low Blood Calcium): The most common cause of tetany is low blood calcium levels. Calcium is crucial for muscle function, and its deficiency can lead to increased excitability of nerves and muscles, resulting in tetany. Hypocalcemia can be caused by various factors, including:
    • Inadequate dietary intake of calcium.
    • Malabsorption disorders that affect the absorption of calcium from the digestive tract.
    • Kidney disorders that impair calcium reabsorption.
    • Vitamin D deficiency, which is necessary for calcium absorption.
    • Disorders that affect parathyroid gland function. The parathyroid hormone plays a key role in regulating calcium levels.
  • Alkalosis: Alkalosis is a condition characterized by an increased pH of the blood, often resulting from hyperventilation or certain metabolic conditions. Alkalosis can lead to decreased ionized calcium in the blood, contributing to tetany.
  • Hypomagnesemia (Low Blood Magnesium): Magnesium is closely linked to calcium metabolism, and its deficiency can affect calcium regulation. Low magnesium levels can lead to decreased parathyroid hormone secretion, impairing calcium absorption.
  • Respiratory Alkalosis: Hyperventilation, whether due to anxiety, pain, or other causes, can lead to respiratory alkalosis. Alkalosis can affect the binding of calcium to proteins, resulting in decreased ionized calcium levels.
  • Acute Pancreatitis: Severe cases of acute pancreatitis may lead to tetany due to the release of enzymes that can affect calcium and magnesium metabolism.
  • Hypoparathyroidism: Hypoparathyroidism is a condition where the parathyroid glands produce insufficient parathyroid hormone, leading to low blood calcium levels and tetany.
  • Hyperventilation Syndrome: Breathing too rapidly and shallowly, often due to stress or anxiety, can lead to respiratory alkalosis and tetany.

Symptoms of tetany include muscle spasms, twitching, cramps, and in severe cases, convulsions. The characteristic “Trousseau sign” and “Chvostek sign” are clinical tests used to assess for tetany. Trousseau sign involves inflating a blood pressure cuff on the arm, leading to spasms of the hand and forearm. Chvostek sign involves tapping the facial nerve, causing facial muscle twitching.

Treatment of tetany involves addressing the underlying cause. In cases of hypocalcemia, calcium supplementation may be administered. Magnesium supplementation may also be necessary in cases of hypomagnesemia. It’s important for individuals experiencing symptoms of tetany to seek prompt medical attention for proper diagnosis and management.

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